Facing Defeat, Argentina’s Ruling Party Resort to Gutter Tactics

The government has spread a fear-mongering campaign, saying people would lose welfare benefits if opponent Mauricio Macri becomes president. (<a href="http://www.agencialaprovincia.info/argentina/cristina-y-scioli-con-mas-del-50-de-imagen-positiva-en-provincia-25062015/" target="_blank">Agencia La Provincia</a>)
The Kirchner administration has launched a campaign of terror, warning voters that they would lose their welfare benefits if Mauricio Macri becomes president. (Agencia La Provincia)

Español“Faith, hope, and optimism.” This was the rallying cry heard in all of Daniel Scioli’s speeches throughout the ruling-party candidate’s campaign for the Argentinean presidency. But this was before the election results in the first round of voting came in last October 25, putting Scioli’s bid for the nation’s top job in serious jeopardy.

His narrow victory over opposition candidate Mauricio Macri came as a surprise, and the Kirchnerists were particularly shocked. Scioli expected to win by a margin of eight to nine points, but he came ahead with little more than two percent of the total amount of votes cast.

Apathy, uncertainty, and disarray fell upon Scioli’s campaign headquarters, and President Cristina Kirchner’s appointed successor promptly changed his discourse.

Scioli immediately turned to marketing expert Joao Santana, who is known for his use of dirty tactics, for a shift in strategy. Now, it is clear that the campaign intends to turn Macri into a bogeyman.

Suddenly, Scioli began to say that poverty and social chaos would ensue if Macri became president. His followers quickly joined the fear-mongering campaign by flooding social media with dire warnings.

Even sitting officials joined in. “The 12 new centers for cancer treatment will continue if Scioli is president. Think about your vote,” Health Minister Daniel Gollán tweeted earlier this week.

Hours later, Gollán claimed to have been hacked and deleted the tweet. However, the tone of the alleged hacker’s post was curiously similar to the minister’s previous tweets, which are still online.

“One million square meters of new hospitals and health centers built in the country. For this to continue, Scioli must be president.”

“Do you want to go back to hospitals without medicine, to barter, to the corralito, to the 58 percent unemployment? Macri is all that.”

From top government officials to grassroots activists, the Kirchnerists echoed the same idea on their social-media accounts: a Macri administration would be a catastrophe for Argentina.

Their aim is to make people believe that Macri will immediately repeal all welfare programs, privatize state-owned companies, and bow down to the “vulture funds” who demand full payment on Argentina’s defaulted bonds.

Militantes kirchneristas han recurrido a los niños para transmitir un mensaje que pretende generar miedo entre el electorado (Facebook)
Pro-government activists are using children to discredit Macri. (YoNoQuiero)

Both online and off, government supporters are dealing their opponents political low blows at a higher rate than ever.

Last Sunday, during the final match of Argentina’s soccer tournament, the pro-government TV show 6, 7, 8 aired a spot comparing Macri with the dictatorship-era Economy minister, José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz.

Scioli denied waging a smear campaign to discredit Macri. “We want to raise collective awareness,” he said.

The Real Crack

Argentineans are already seeing through the lies, but the most remarkable consequence is how the smear campaign is backfiring on the Kirchner administration by making people more aware of the government’s failures.

After 12 years in power, the Kirchner family has increased dependence on government welfare to such a degree that, today, roughly one-third of Argentinean households receive some kind of economic assistance.

This fact clearly contradicts the government’s claims that they have ruled over a “prosperous decade.” The Kirchnerists’ main achievement is getting the needy hooked on their programs. Now they can reap the benefits and blackmail Argentineans for their votes.

Their strategy is to make dependence on government handouts a new norm. The argument that the opposition would get rid of all government programs and leave the poor to their own fate is fallacious. It stems from the false assumption that free-market reform boils down to abolishing welfare programs.

A country that aims for economic growth in a sustainable and morally adequate manner — and not by means of legal plunder — would not make supposed “rights” out of privileges.

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The current campaign has also unveiled a “rift” in Argentinean society, a state of constant polarization between government supporters and dissidents. And it’s not just a rhetorical rift. The presidential race has exposed a profound division between those who create wealth and those who, counting with government privileges, get to redistribute other people’s money.

The Kirchnerists’ hand-wringing over the potential privatization of state-owned firms such as Aerolíneas Argentinas and the oil giant YPF, over social security reform, and the elimination of capital controls does not arise from legitimate concerns over the people’s welfare. What the government really fears is losing rent-seeking opportunities.

Consider the “defense of national industries.” While the government claims that protectionist measures are there to spur jobs, the truth is that protectionism favors the Kirchnerists’ crony friends since it allows them to dominate the market without facing true competition.

Scioli’s smear campaign also reminded us of the average, forgotten man, the victim of a voracious state’s exploitation. It has unmasked those who — in the name of abstract, loosely-defined concepts — hide their true intentions: becoming rich by means of force, not through the voluntary transactions that occur in a free market.

They want to perpetuate poverty to keep their political machine running. For them, individuals are voters on election day and serfs during the rest of the year.

Argentineans have sent the government a message: they are sick and tired of being robbed of the fruits of their labor. Macri should also pay attention if he takes office and wants to succeed.

As Argentina’s founding father Juan Bautista Alberdi said: “What does wealth creation request from the law?  The same request that (the philosopher) Diogenes made to Alexander the Great: ‘get out of my light.'”

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